Stricken league fans given Test boost - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stricken league fans given Test boost

By Joe Barton 24/03/2011 05:49:59 PM Comments (0)

Some 500 fans from earthquake-hit Christchurch and flood-ravaged Queensland will be flown in as guests of honour at the relocated mid-year rugby league Test between Australia and New Zealand on the Gold Coast.

The match was relocated to Skilled Park due to the damage inflicted on Christchurch by the February 22 earthquake that claimed 182 lives.

Australian Rugby League chief executive Geoff Carr said the annual fixture would take on even more significance in the wake of the recent natural disasters which have rocked both countries.

As a result, the ARL has combined forces with Jetstar to fly 250 fans from Christchurch to the Gold Coast without charge, while giving them free admission to the Test and also the Titans' home NRL clash with the Warriors on May 8.

A further 250 fans from flood-affected areas in Queensland will also be invited down to the first ever Test played at Skilled Park.

"This Test will add a new chapter to that rivalry but, significantly, it will provide a stage to honour the courage and spirit of all those whose lives have been affected by the floods and Cyclone Yasi (in Queensland) and the Christchurch earthquake," Carr said.

"There is a proud sporting rivalry between our two nations and we have witnessed some enthralling matches in the past few years."

New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle was disappointed the match had to be taken away from Christchurch, but understood circumstances had made it impossible.

And he welcomed the gesture to fly in and host the 250 Christchurch fans free of charge.

"While it was our intention to have this Test in Christchurch originally, it simply isn't possible this time but, through this united effort, we will still be able to bring some people from Christchurch to be a part of history," he said.

"It's not possible to do enough for them after what they've endured and are still enduring but we are determined to help in whatever small way we can."

Among other initiatives during the week, New Zealand's World Cup-winning captain Nathan Cayless will join fans at the Test after conducting a community visit in Christchurch.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh sees the Test as a way to show the world that Queensland is bouncing back from January's destructive floods.

"It means thousands of interstate and overseas visitors and once again demonstrates that Queensland is back in business," Bligh said.

"It's hoped this event will bring a little cheer and relief to those who've been through an incredibly tough few months."

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